Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Around the time when James Darren's "Goodbye Cruel World" was a smash hit, he made a guest appearance on the Donna Reed Show.

I don't know the episode, but I do recall it opened with "Goodbye Cruel World" playing on the radio while Donna Reed, Paul Petersen, and Shelley Fabares, were talking and doing household chores, etc.

However, instead of the commonly heard recording of "Goodbye Cruel World," wherein he is "off to join the circus," this time he is "off to join the army."

Only some of the lyrics vary from the hit song everyone knows.

A little later, James Darren himself is seen driving a jeep and singing the same "join the army" version, apparently on his way to do just that.

Have you ever heard of this obviously obscure song? Was it ever issued on records?
—Dixie Huntington, Santa Ana, Calif.

DEAR DIXIE: Yes to the first and no to the second.

I am very familiar with the army "Goodbye Cruel World," that is, as you say, heard twice in Season 4 Episode 1 of the Donna Reed Show.

Titled "One Starry Night," this show originally aired September 14 to kick off Donna's fourth season.

Fortunately, the segment with James — accompanied by his brother, Johnny Darren — is the more enjoyable of the two, not just because we see him singing, but, unlike in the opening sequence, there is no distracting conversation among the actors during the song.

Interestingly, the 45 rpm single of "Goodbye Cruel World" (Colpix 609) did not hit the airwaves until the end of the month, presumably on the receiving end of a nice little boost from the exposure on Donna Reed's "One Starry Night."

On October 16, the record made its chart debut nationally, and by mid-December it peaked at No. 3 on Billboard and No. 2 on Cash Box (blocked only by the Tokens' "The Lion Sleeps Tonight").

The army "Goodbye Cruel World," that seemingly could have been used in a recruitment campaign, was not issued on a record. You can, however, enjoy James Darren's lip-sync performance on the Donna Reed Show any time on YouTube, either the complete episode or just the "Goodbye Cruel World" segment.

DEAR JERRY: Not long ago you prepared a list of authentic song titles on records that were palindromes, whether or not they were done intentionally.

You hinted that it was a work in progress, so have you since come up with any others?

I'm sure you'll notice why folks from my area have a special interest in palindromes.
—Chuck Olsen, Semmes, Ala.

DEAR CHUCK: Then for all your palindrome pals in Semmes, along with ones in Glenelg, Maryland; Renner, South Dakota; Wassamassaw, South Carolina; and on an island in Alaska named Kayak, here are the most recently added song titles.

Two listings of the same title indicates each is a completely different song:

"Ana" (Pixies) 1990
"Anna" (Silvana Mangano) 1953
"Anna" (Beatles) 1962 - Originally recorded by Arthur Alexander as "Anna (Go to Him)"
"Eve" (Jim Capaldi) 1972
"Hannah" (Johnny Duncan) 1962
"Hannah Hannah" (Lionel Hampton) 1951
"Mom" (Earth, Wind & Fire) 1972
"Pop Pop Pop" (Youngbloodz) 1999
"Radar" (Laurie Anderson) 1986
"Toot" (Chubby Checker) 1960
"Wow" (Andre Gagnon) 1976

IZ ZAT SO? Perhaps the overall top-selling palindromic songs, both of which happen to be on the list above, sold millions of records because they were merely part of a larger package.

Though never a single, the Beatles' "Anna" was one of the tracks on their 1964 "Introducing the Beatles" LP and also on the "Souvenir of Their First Visit to America" EP.

When first issued, in 1960, "The Twist" by Chubby Checker was backed with "Toot," which gladly went right along for the ride into the record books.

IZ ZAT SO? When Tom T. Hall wrote "Harper Valley P.T.A." he could never have imagined what a cultural phenomenon he'd created.

Not only did Jeannie C. Riley's 1968 recording top both the pop and country charts in the U.S. and Canada — the first time ever accomplished by a female — but that one little phonograph record inspired a feature film (1978) AND a TV series (1981). That too had never happened before.

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